Edwards: I Fathered Child out of Wedlock

John Edwards CBS/ AP

Updated 6:30 p.m. ET

Former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards arrived in Haiti Thursday to distribute aid to earthquake victims. But his good intentions will not be enough to overshadow the latest twist in the scandal that ruined his political career.

Edwards, at long last, came forward at Thursday to admit that he fathered a child with a videographer that he hired before his second White House bid.

A senior Obama administration official told CBS News chief political consultant, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, that Edwards informed the White House that he wanted to go to Haiti and help.

"I am told that this declaration was met with silence," Ambinder told CBS News.

Upon landing in Port-au-Prince, Edwards said he was moved by the plight of the Haitians and wanted deliver with supplies. He said he had coordinated his arrival with the U.S. military on the ground and planned to direct medical aid, and then visit schools that need rebuilding.

Edwards confirmed he fathered a child with the videographer, Rielle Hunter, in a statement released to The Associated Press Thursday, after initially denying that he'd fathered a child during his affair with Hunter.

"I am Quinn's father," the former senator declared in his statement, as the second birthday of Frances Quinn Hunter approaches.

Edwards had repeatedly denied that he might be the girl's father.

"He was lying to himself and to everybody else," Harrison Hickman, a former Edwards campaign pollster told CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

A little more than two years ago, Edwards was one of three leading Democratic candidates with a real shot at the White House - a pursuit he continued knowing he had a secret that could kill his candidacy and damage his party if it ever came out, Reynolds reports.

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John Edwards Goes to Haiti, White House Silent
Edwards' full statement

In Haiti, Edwards wouldn't elaborate on his statement from the morning.

"I've said what I have to say for now, and I'm here to help people," Edwards said when asked about his admission to fathering Frances Hunter.

A former Edwards aide, Andrew Young, initially claimed paternity of the child shortly before the 2008 presidential primary contests began. Young is scheduled to release a book on Feb. 2 that details the scandal.

Frances was born Feb. 27, 2008, indicating that the child was conceived in the middle of 2007, several months after Hunter stopped working for Edwards. John and Elizabeth Edwards renewed their wedding vows in July of 2007, to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

Elizabeth Edwards, whose cancer returned in an incurable form in March 2007, has stood by her husband despite the affair. She has said that it does not matter to her whether her husband fathered a child with Hunter, saying, "that would be a part of John's life, but not a part of mine."

She said in an interview with The Associated Press that "the whole family is relieved." She declined to discuss the couple's marital status and said she didn't know where things will go from here.

"If somebody has a crystal ball, they can let me know," she said when asked what was next for her and John Edwards.

(NATIONAL ENQUIRER)
(At left, Rielle Hunter and daughter Quinn)

Hunter's lawyer, Michael Critchley, said the admission is "good for everyone."

Critchley said Edwards' statement amounted to a public acknowledgment of something that was known privately.

He said Hunter did not have an immediate comment. It is not clear where she and the child are living.

In an excerpt of an ABC News interview released Thursday, Young says that Edwards asked him to arrange a fake paternity test.

"Get a doctor to fake the DNA results," Young said Edwards told him. "And he asked me ... to steal a diaper from the baby so he could secretly do a DNA test to find out if this (was) indeed his child."

An Edwards spokeswoman declined to comment on the ABC interview.

Elizabeth Edwards said her cancer got worse for a period but has recently been improving, with some signs of tumors shrinking. She said she's now on an "upward path" and hopes that her husband's admission will now end news stories about the family's matters.

"My marriage shouldn't be on anybody's radar screen except mine," she said.

Since admitting the affair in August 2008, John Edwards has largely gone into seclusion. He has acknowledged a federal investigation into his campaign finances while both Young and Hunter - with her child - have made appearances at a federal courthouse in Raleigh.

In the statement Edwards released Thursday, he said, "I will do everything in my power to provide her (Frances) with the love and support she deserves. I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace."

Edwards also said, "It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me."

"I have been providing financial support for Quinn and have reached an agreement with her mother to continue providing support in the future," the statement said. "To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry."

(AP Photo/The National Enquirer)
(At left, Rielle Hunter and John Edwards in 2006)

Edwards' attorney, Wade Smith, said in an interview with the AP that Edwards wrestled with the decision to come forward but took so long to do it because "he's not the only person involved in this."

"It's a complex family situation, and he had to keep in mind that other people have concerns and worries about it," Smith said.

Smith said there would never be a logical explanation for why Edwards initially denied being the father. But he added that Edwards was "very pleased" to finally set the record straight.

"To say that life has been hard for John Edwards for the past year would be an enormous understatement," Smith said. "His life has totally fallen apart. It's been a very difficult time for him. He recognizes that he has been at fault."

When CBS News affiliate WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., talked with Smith about Edwards' admission, he said, "We have wanted John to be real. And it isn't a matter of making people happy, so much as it is doing the right thing about this child ... This is a gift, this child is a gift."

Hickman, Edwards' longtime political adviser, called the situation "a lot more complicated than people think."

"There are a lot of adults involved," Hickman said in an interview broadcast on NBC's "Today" show. "I think they wanted to handle this in the right way."

"Elizabeth thinks that he should acknowledge this," Hickman said. He said it "has been a very difficult time for everyone ... but especially for Elizabeth."

Edwards, a U.S. senator representing North Carolina from 1998 until his vice presidential bid in 2004, . Grand jury proceedings are secret, and the U.S. attorney's office in Raleigh has declined to confirm or deny an investigation. Smith, Edwards' attorney, declined to comment Thursday about the probe.

Edwards adamantly denied during an interview with ABC News last summer that he had fathered a child with Hunter, and he welcomed a paternity test.

Edwards has said the affair ended in 2006. That year, Edwards' political action committee paid Hunter's video production firm $100,000 for work. Then the committee paid another $14,086 on April 1, 2007. The Edwards camp has said the latter payment from the PAC that Rielle Hunter shot.

The same day, the Edwards presidential campaign had injected $14,034.61 into the PAC for a "furniture purchase," according to federal election records.

Fred Baron, who was Edwards' national finance chairman and a wealthy Dallas-based trial attorney, said last year he quietly sent money to Hunter and to resettle Young's family.

Last August, sources told WRAL-TV that Edwards was going to announce he had fathered Hunter's child, but he did not. Until Thursday, Edwards had only acknowledged the affair and denied that he fathered the child.

August 2009: Is Edwards the Father?

Young, the former Edwards aide, announced last June that he would release his tell-all book with information about the affair and his relationship with the former candidate.

When the book was announced, it was promoted to recount Young's friendship with the Edwards family, his attempt to help Edwards during his affair and comments by Elizabeth Edwards after her husband confirmed the affair.

In the new political book "Game Change," authors John Heilemann of New York Magazine and Mark Halperin of Time
reported on the details of Edwards' marriage and his affair
with Hunter. At least three Edwards campaign aides reportedly resigned because of their knowledge of the affair, Ambinder reported from the book.

An excerpt of the book focusing on Edwards, published in New York Magazine, portrays the married couple in a very unflattering light.
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